Ian Swann is a development chef for Bakkavor Pizza, the company who create the Finest Pizza range for Tesco. He speaks to us about his latest creation, Finest Lighter, and explains how it’s possible to make a low-calorie pizza that still tastes great.
How did you become a pizza chef?
I’ve worked in catering since the age of 17. I worked in Italian restaurants, fell in love with the food, and began making pizza.
What does your job involve?
No two days are the same. I’ve been at Bakkavor pizza for three years and I currently work on the full Tesco pizza range, including Finest Lighter, which is less than 500 calories. I can be working on new briefs, new ideas or the innovation of current methods and ingredients.
What is your relationship with Tesco?
I work in close partnership with the Tesco pizza buyer. We share a mutual respect for one another. It was a joint vision to create the Lighter pizza, expanding on the Tesco Lighter ready meals range. We looked at what’s happening in restaurants, what’s trending in terms of flavours, shared the information, and we launched the new range a couple of weeks ago.
What’s involved in the process of making Finest Lighter?
We start by making the bases in our bakery. First we bind the dough in large mixers. Then the dough is put through rollers before being wood-fired and stonebaked. Stonebaked pizza bases are the best you can get, and the stones in our bakery are from Mount Vesuvius.
How do you ensure the pizzas are produced to the highest quality?
We manually add hand-sourced ingredients that are strictly calorie controlled. This is an important part of the process. The lighter versions of pizza are only 500 calories, so we have to be certain that we don’t go over this; the only way to be sure is by hand.
How do you retain the pizza’s flavour but lose the calories?
By doing our homework so we don’t compromise on the taste or quality. First off, we ensure the base is uber-thin. The base provides about two-thirds of the calories of a pizza, so we pushed to produce the thinnest base we could, wood-firing it to make it lovely and crispy. We also work hard to balance fresh-tasting flavours with calories, while creating pizza that is still visually appealing.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We only source the best ingredients for the Finest range – we want hero ingredients we can shout about. A number of the ingredients come from Italy as, for example, we only use San Marzano tomatoes on our Finest pizzas. These are considered by chefs to make the best tomato sauce and are what all the best restaurants use. We use the same ingredients you would find if you ate at an Italian pizzeria – including high-quality ‘00’ flour. We don’t use any chemicals; just water, flour, tomatoes and extra virgin oil. We keep it simple and our pizzas are fresh, natural and bursting with flavour.